The Consolidated PT-1 'Trusty' was an excellent training aircraft that laid the foundations for the Consolidated Aircraft Company.
The PT-1 led directly to the formation of Consolidated. Reuben Hollis Fleet, the founder of the company, was worked for the Gallaudet Aircraft Company, but at the same time he was looking around for other projects. Dayton Wright, then part of General Motors, had developed a promising training aircraft, the TW-3, but General Motors was no longer interested in the aircraft industry. Fleet purchased the patents and manufacturing rights for the TW-3, along with the services of Col Virginius 'Ginny' Evans Clark, its designer. At first he attempted to form a joint company with Gallaudet, but these efforts failed. In May 1923 Fleet founded the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation. On 29 May he leased some of the Gallaudet production facilities and staff, and on 14 June he received an order for twenty TW-3s.
The PT-1 had much in common with the TW-3, although it was an improved and simplified design. It used the same 180hp Wright-Hispano E engine, had a steel-tube fuselage, and spruce spars in the wings, carried two 20 gallon fuel tanks in the upper wing and used the same interplane struts and split-axle undercarriage. This used the wheels from the DH-4. The PT-1 had a 24in stagger between the wings. The TW-3 was a side-by-side aircraft, but this was an unpopular layout and the PT-1 was changed to a more standard tandem unit.
The prototype PT-1 took part in an Army competition to find a new training aircraft at Brook Fields, San Antonio in the early summer of 1924, and later in the year the Air Service ordered fifty PT-1s from Consolidated. These first aircraft cost $9,800 each.
On 22 September 1924 Fleet leased the former Curtiss factory, the North Elmwood Plant at Buffalo, New York. The first fifty aircraft were delivered in batches of ten from the new factory, with gradual improvements made on the first 34. Three more orders were placed, bringing total production for the US Army to 220 production aircraft and the single prototype.
Another four aircraft were produced for Siam, giving a total of 224 production aircraft.
The PT-1 was a popular training aircraft. It gained the name 'Trusty' because it could easily recover from a spin. During its first year in service at Brooks Fields there wasn't a single serious injury while using the type.
One PT-1 went to the US Navy, and in 1925 it won a Navy contest for a trainer, entering service as the NY-1, the first of a family of similar naval trainers.
Fleet was very proud of the PT-1, and described it as the 'best, strongest, flying-est trainer in the world'. The Army and Navy shared his positive views, and a handful remained in use at the start of the Second World War.
Engine: Wright-Hispano E water-cooled V-8
Span: 34ft 5.5in
Length: 27ft 9.25in
Height: 9ft 10in
Empty Weight: 1,805lb
Gross Weight: 2,577lb
Maximum Speed: 92mph
Cruising Speed: 79mph
Range: 350 miles with 40 US gallons